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(Two heads, skull)



James Gleeson


21 Nov 1915 – 20 Oct 2008

Artist profile

  • Details

    Other Title
    Studies for 'Sea-wreck involving the heads of Tristan and Isolde (Two heads, skull)'
    Place where the work was made
    Sydney New South Wales Australia
    Media category
    Materials used
    blue ball-point pen, sienna and brown ink, wash, opaque white
    14.0 x 22.7 cm sheet
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Gift of Frank O'Keefe 1993
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Gleeson/O'Keefe Foundation

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    James Gleeson

    Artist profile

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Gleeson's love of music was formed in his childhood, the German romantic composer Richard Wagner (1813-83) being a favourite. Wagner's personal philosophy of art placed equal emphasis on the role of the conscious and subconscious mind. his opera 'Tristan and Isolde' 1856-59 is set in the middle ages and tells the story of the doomed love of Cornish knight Tristan and Irish princess Isolde.

    'Sea wrack involving the heads of Tristan and Isolde' was painted in London and is one of Gleeson's most successful and complex early works - a synthesis of motifs to which Gleeson returned on many occasions, such as the column of multi-faced heads and skulls, fire burning under the night sky and bound figures. The heads of Tristan and Isolde are entwined with hair and flanked by tribal masks.

    Hendrik Kolenberg and Anne Ryan, 'James Gleeson: drawings for paintings', Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2003, pg. 43.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 1 publication

Other works by James Gleeson

See all 501 works